Losing a loved one is an immense tragedy. In cases where the death was caused by the negligence or misconduct of another party, you may be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death claim. Settlements from wrongful death claims aim to provide financial support and stability to families who have lost a breadwinner or provider.
While no amount of money can bring back your loved one, a settlement can help ease the financial burden caused by their absence. When pursuing a wrongful death claim, it’s crucial to understand how to maximize your compensation so you get as much as the law allows. Here is some key guidance on maximizing payouts for a wrongful death settlement in Utah.
Documenting Damages from Loss of Support
A significant portion of a wrongful death settlement is meant to replace the financial support the deceased provided. This includes their income, benefits, retirement contributions, and other financial gifts or contributions they regularly supplied.
To get full compensation for loss of support, you must thoroughly document your loved one’s earnings history and your household’s dependence on their income. Gather past tax returns, pay stubs, W-2s, and other paperwork showing their wages and employment benefits. Calculate the present value of any retirement plans or accounts they contributed to. Describe any other monetary or in-kind support they consistently provided, such as helping pay bills, mortgages, or educational costs.
Quantifying the precise financial loss suffered by their death allows you to justify much higher settlement demands. You may need to hire an economic expert to accurately forecast the lifetime earnings your family member would have contributed had they lived. A seasoned wrongful death lawyer knows how to present income documentation persuasively to maximize this portion of the claim.
Valuing Loss of Companionship, Guidance, and Household Contributions
In addition to lost financial support, compensation in a wrongful death claim aims to make up for the loss of non-economic contributions from the deceased. These include companionship, guidance, nurturing, household chores/maintenance, and other intangible benefits they provided.
To fully value these losses, describe your relationship with your loved one and the many ways you depended on their presence in your daily life. Keep a journal recording your grief journey, struggles to adjust, and pain from their absence at important events like birthdays or holidays. Describe how you relied on their advice for major life decisions or valued time spent together at family gatherings. Explain any tasks or upkeep they handled that you now must pay to replace.
Vividly painting this picture of your loss shows insurers the true extent of the damage caused by taking your loved one away. While harder to quantify than financial support, robust evidence of your emotional and lifestyle suffering can substantially increase settlement amounts.
Documenting Medical and Funeral Expenses
Don’t forget to claim compensation for any medical and funeral/burial costs incurred because of the wrongful death. Collect receipts and billing statements to prove these expenses and insist the settlement cover them fully. If the deceased underwent medical treatment prior to death, include these costs. You should also compile any counseling or therapy bills paid by surviving family members coping with the tragic loss.
Funeral and burial expenses can be costly. Include things like the casket, gravesite, headstone, funeral home services, obituary notices, flowers, clergy honorariums, and funeral event catering. The settlement should cover these costs and ideally exceed them, as the amount should factor in emotional distress in addition to monetary expenses.
Consulting an Experienced Wrongful Death Lawyer
To ensure you receive full and fair compensation, consult with an attorney experienced in maximizing wrongful death settlements. They will thoroughly document all categories of financial and non-economic damages, retain experts as needed to accurately gauge losses, and aggressively negotiate with insurance companies on your behalf.
An attorney understands what settlement values are reasonable to demand based on case specifics and Utah wrongful death laws. Their legal expertise is key for establishing liability and proving the monetary value of damages. Engaging a skilled wrongful death lawyer protects your interests so you don’t leave money on the table when settling your claim.
Don’t Rush Settlement Offers
It’s natural to want to avoid legal delays by accepting an initial settlement offer and moving on. However, early offers typically undervalue wrongful death claims well below what the deceased’s family deserves. Insurance companies know surviving families need funds urgently and want to close the book quickly on the painful chapter.
Don’t accept initial settlement offers until your attorney has thoroughly built and advocated your claim. Higher offers should come as more evidence of damages emerges, and your lawyer presses the insurer through negotiations, mediation, or litigation. Patience is key – one study found those who settled quickly received 54% less compensation than those who waited to negotiate when their claim position was stronger.
Consider Structured Settlements
Rather than taking a lump cash settlement, consider requesting structured payments over time through a settlement annuity. These annuities provide a predictable stream of tax-free income guaranteed for your lifetime and can protect assets for your family’s future needs. Lifetime annuities remove concerns about outliving your settlement or improperly managing a single lump payment.
Structures also allow optimizing eligibility for needs-based government benefits, as periodic payments are not treated as disposable income. Discuss structured settlement options with your attorney to see if they make sense for your wrongful death claim. This approach requires no upfront outlay, and the negotiated terms obligate the defendant to fund the annuity contract.
Seek Justice, Not Just Compensation
No amount of money can ever make up for the negligent taking of a loved one’s life. While financial compensation won’t diminish your grief and anger, it can help ease the burdens caused by your family member’s absence. By maximizing your settlement, you gain resources to honor your loved one’s legacy and obtain some small justice for the profound loss you’ve suffered.
Throughout this difficult process, remember that support is available. Seek counsel from therapists or support groups focused on the surviving families of wrongful death victims.
If you need guidance on pursuing a wrongful death claim or want an advocate negotiating fair compensation on your behalf, reach out to one of our experienced Utah wrongful death attorneys today. We have offices in 32 locations across 19 states, including Utah, Washington, and Alabama, and you can call for a free consultation on (888) 477-0597.